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PRINCIPLE OF STRICT ADHERENCE TO RULE OF MERIT – SC ON M.B.B.S ADMISSION

KRISHNA SRADHA V THE STATE OF ANDHRA PRADESH & ORS. CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1081 OF 2017

This appeal was brought to the Supreme Court of India before the bench consisting of Honourable Justice Arun Mishra, Honourable Justice M.R. Shah and Honourable Justice B.R. Gavai.

The issue arises for consideration was whether a student, a meritorious candidate, for no fault of his/her and who had pursued his/her legal right expeditiously without delay, can be denied admission as a relief, because the cutoff date of 30th September has passed. In such a situation the relief which can be given by the Court is to grant appropriate compensation only?

ISSUES RAISED BEFORE THIS COURT

  1. Is there any exception to the principle of strict adherence to the rule of merit for preference of courses and colleges regarding admission to such courses?

  2. Whether the cutoff date of 30th September of the relevant academic year is a date which admits any exception?

  3. What relief the courts can grant and to what extent they can mould it while ensuring adherence to the rule of merit, fairness and transparency in admission in terms of rules and regulations?

  4. What issues need to be dealt with and finding returned by the court before passing orders which may be more equitable, but still in strict compliance with the framework of regulations and judgments of this Court governing the subject?

Learned Counsel Mr. K. Parameshwar appearing on behalf of the appellant, had vehemently submitted that the present case refers only to cases where (i) no fault is attributable to the candidate; (ii) the candidate has pursued his /her rights and legal remedies expeditiously and without delay; (iii) where there is fault on the part of the authorities and apparent breach of rules and regulations. It was submitted that the relief of admission was being denied because the case has been pending in the relevant Court and the time for admission has expired. It was vehemently submitted by Learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant that even in a case where a candidate is meritorious and though entitled to admission, but denied by the authorities illegally and irrationally and though no fault is attributable to the candidate and the candidate has pursued his/her rights and legal remedies expeditiously and without delay and when there is fault on the part of the authorities and apparent breach of rules and regulations, to deny the admission would be injustice to such a meritorious candidate and punishing him/her for no fault of him/her. It was submitted that it was therefore rightly observed in the case of Asha that in rarest of rare cases, the Court can, while exercising powers under Article 226 and/or under Article 32 of the Constitution of India can direct to grant admission despite the fact that the time for admission has expired. Learned Counsel for the appellant further submitted that earlier this Court has considered different remedies in cases of medical admissions where candidates were denied medical seats. It was submitted by the Learned Counsel appearing for the appellant that in the case of Indu Kant vs. State of U.P., this Court had observed therein that in case where the candidate is found to be meritorious, she can be accommodated in a subsequent year with a direction that seats be increased in the next year.

It was submitted by learned counsel for the appellant that when the candidate was found to be meritorious and denied the admission more particularly in the courses like MBBS and has approached the Court expeditiously, to grant relief only of compensation cannot be said to be just and equitable relief. It was submitted that right to equal and fair treatment is a component of Article 14 of the Constitution. It was further submitted that a transparent and fair procedure is the duty of every legal authority connected with admissions. However, with a view to see that a meritorious student is not made to suffer because of no fault of him/her and in rarest of rare cases or exceptional circumstances, while exercising the powers under Article 226 or Article 32 of the Constitution of India, the Court alone can grant the reliefs and may deviate from the normal rule.

It was submitted by Mr. Vikas Singh, Learned Counsel appearing for MCI that however, it is in rarest of rare cases and in exceptional circumstances when it is found that for no fault on the part of the candidate and due to the gross negligence or inaction on the part of the concerned authority or for some unforeseeable reasons a meritorious candidate has been deprived of admission in medical course then in such circumstances only the Court may consider granting relief to the candidate, either by way of compensation or by directing that the candidate may be accommodated in the quota of sanctioned seats available for the next academic session. It was submitted that however only in cases where the Court is satisfied that monetary compensation will not be adequate to redress the injury suffered by the candidate, then and then only this direction to accommodate student in the next academic year may be passed.

It was submitted that however while granting such a relief in the rarest of rare cases and in exceptional circumstances, a candidate must have approached the Court without any delay; candidate must be higher in the merit list than the last student admitted in the college and the candidate has complied with all the requirements and submitted each and every document on time as prescribed by the counselling authority and there is no delay attributable on the part of the student in this regard.

It was submitted to ascertain whether the candidate has approached the Court on time and to avoid mischievous persons from filing frivolous petitions the Court may consider the following criteria for determining the delay:

(i) Where the candidate is challenging the validity of any provision in notification/Information Bulletin/ Prospectus issued by the concerned authority

pertaining to admission in medicine course, then the candidate must have approached the Court before the commencement of the counselling process;

(ii) Where the candidate is challenging any eligibility criteria laid down in the notification/Information Bulletin /Prospectus for Common Counselling issued

by the concerned authority, then the candidate must have approached the Court before the commencement of the counselling process i.e. first round of counselling;

(iii) Where the candidate is challenging the first round of counselling process itself, then the candidate must have approached the Court immediately after the first round of counselling and before the commencement of second round of counselling;

(iv) Where the candidate is challenging the second round or mop up round of counselling process, then in that case student must approach the Court immediately thereafter but before the cut off/last date for completion of admission process.

It was further submitted by Mr. Vikas Singh, Learned Counsel appearing for MCI that in case all aforesaid prerequisites are fulfilled by candidate and the Court is of the opinion that a case is made out having found rarest of rare case and exceptional circumstances and the Court is of the opinion that such a student can be accommodated in the next academic year, in that case also out of the total sanctioned intake of seats not more than two seats in an institution/college/University in a given academic year should be considered to be filled by the students of the preceding academic year who have been deprived of the MBBS students due to the negligence and fault of the authorities.

Denial of fair treatment to the candidate would not only violate his/her right under Article 14 but would seriously jeopardize his/her right under Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. A natural corollary of declaring that an administrative act more particularly the denial of admission illegally   and   for   no   fault   of   a   candidate/student   violates principles of Article 14 is that the citizen injured must be put back to his/her original position.  In that sense, the primary relief   is   restitutionary. As observed hereinabove,  for   a meritorious student seeking admission in medical course is very important in the life of student/candidate and denial of admission to a meritorious candidate though   no   fault   of his/her violates his/her fundamental rights.

JUDGMENT DELIVERED BY THE COURT

Thereby, this Honourable Court gave its judgment as under,

“In view of the above, the decision of this Court in the case of Jasmine Kaur or any other decisions contrary to the above stand overruled. The decision of this Court in the case of Asha is hereby affirmed to the aforesaid extent. The reference is answered accordingly.”

– Tanvi Srivatsan

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